What Happens When Corker Lays Down His Foreign Relations Gavel?
Tennessee Republican leaves a committee far from what it used to be

Neither Peyton Manning nor Reese Witherspoon is going to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next year. Not Charlie Daniels, Dolly Parton or Samuel L. Jackson, either.

The most clear-cut reason is that none of those celebrity Tennesseans is likely to end up running to become a senator, much to the disappointment of Beltway insiders starved for glitzy, if harmless, political distractions in the Trump era and already enthralled by Kid Rock’s flirtation with a Senate run in Michigan.

New High Court Term, Same No-TV and Tape-Delay Rules
Arguments will be invisible, and hard to hear, even for member of Congress with eyes on landmark redistricting case

The Supreme Court term starting next week promises to be among the most consequential in years, but it’s guaranteed to be as invisible as ever to the American citizenry.

The campaign to get cameras in the courtroom has almost totally foundered. Instead, some open-government advocates have started campaigning to simply hear oral arguments in real time  — so far, also with no success.

Podcast: What’s Moore Strange Than Alabama’s Senate Race?
The Big Story, Episode 72

Alabama’s Senate contest Tuesday is the first election skirmish in this year’s Republican civil war. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange is the candidate of the party establishment yet has the backing of the outsider president, Donald Trump. But former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s controversial conservatism has the ear of many Trump diehards. A preview from reporters who’ve seen the contest up close, Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman and The Economist’s James Astill.

Which of These Bills Is Not Like the Others? The Defense Budget
Testy and balky debate, like this year, still has ended with authorization for 57 straight years

For the uninitiated, it might have seemed last week like the annual legislation authorizing the nation’s military was about to come off the rails. And only now does it appear to be clamoring out of some thick mud — yet another example of a Congress so challenged when it comes to discharging even its most fundamental responsibilities.

Rest assured, though: There’s truly nothing more certain in the Capitol’s life cycle than enactment of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Schumer’s Big Gamble on the Virtue of ‘Yes’
Most Senate minority leaders are all about ‘no’ — but the Trump era isn’t like most times

If the Senate’s governing principle can be reduced to this, “Saying no is easier than saying yes,” then it makes sense that leading the caucus so often focused on stopping stuff is much less demanding than being in charge of the group that’s always held responsible for getting things done.

Six men have personified this lesson during the past 40 years, former senators who had both responsibilities while they were floor leaders. For Democrats Robert C. Byrd, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, as well as for Republicans Howard H. Baker Jr., Trent Lott and Bob Dole, solid arguments can be made that their stewardships were much more successful as minority leaders than as majority leaders.

Podcast: How the GOP Congress Could Help ‘Dreamers’ Now
The Big Story, Episode 70

Hill Republicans lambasted President Barack Obama’s deportation protections for 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, but now they sound willing to heed President Donald Trump’s invitation to turn the DACA program into law. What’s changed? CQ Roll Call immigration reporter Dean DeChiaro and education reporter Emily Wilkins explain.

Show Notes:

Trump and GOP Lawmakers — Even More on the Rocks
‘Must pass’ agenda tests a strained unified government

Can this marriage of convenience be saved?

Will the first unified Republican government in a decade hold together in its current state of snarky detente, or will the majorities in Congress and President Donald Trump launch into a full-blown separation with the potential for policymaking divorce?

Podcast: After Charlottesville, Civil Rights Under Trump at the Fore
The Big Story, Episode 67

Last weekend’s bloody Virginia demonstrations incited by white supremacists will focus new attention on how the Trump administration is altering the Justice Department’s approach to hate crimes and other civil rights issues, CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains. It’s a big test for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already under fire from the president and because of his own record on race.

Show Notes:

Podcast: Inside the Senate’s Struggle With Civility
The Big Story, Episode 65

Senators are heading home for summer break, after a health care implosion highlighted the partisan ill will that’s festered all year. Ed Pesce, who edits CQ’s Senate coverage, explains how hardline GOP procedural tactics have taken the chamber to a new low, and what could get civil deliberations back on track.

McCain’s Many Parts in Getting to ‘No’ on Health Care
Hero, then goat to his Senate GOP colleagues. But did the maverick actually bridge their gap?

Very rare is the senator with the singular sway to play the scold, the savior, the spoiler, the sacrificial offering and the spurned playmaker for his own party — and all within a spurt of fewer than 60 hours. But that was how this week played out for John McCain.

He may have had other, similar stretches during his three decades working to hold the title of the Senate’s main maverick. But for the indefinite future, he’s not going to have another one nearly as baroque, with so many highs and lows in so short a stretch that delighted, confounded, openly infuriated but secretively satisfied fellow Republicans.

Rare Warning to Trump From Hill GOP Leader
Firing Sessions could poison president’s agenda in Senate, Cornyn says

The Senate majority’s No. 2 leader has given President Donald Trump one of the strongest pushbacks from any Republican in Congress this year: Firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions could bring to a halt GOP cooperation with the administration’s legislative agenda.

“Well, it’s the president’s prerogative, but he is then going to jeopardize, potentially, his ability to get anything else done here,” Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Wednesday. “And I don’t think that should be his desire or preference.”

Sessions on the Cusp of Martyrdom or Oblivion
If he’s fired, will former Senate GOP colleagues draw a line against Trump?

When Jeff Sessions was preparing last fall to begin a third decade in the Senate, his future as a rock-ribbed conservative legislative force looked limitless, but just three seasons later, he’s been pushed to the precipice of his career.

The almost daily taunting he’s taking from President Donald Trump points toward one of two probably quick endings to his brief run as attorney general, quitting or getting canned.

How Bad Political Manners Fomented the Health Care Mess
Lawmakers feel free to misbehave when their leaders drop ‘regular order’

A president whose brand is all about flouting basic political manners is getting matched in misbehavior more and more by fellow Republicans in Congress.

The first six months under President Donald Trump have been marked not only by a further coarsening of GOP rhetoric, stoked mainly by incessant infighting in backrooms, but also by increasing defiance of decades of behavioral norms — from Trump’s nominal friends and skeptics alike, when they’ve been trying to work with him and when they’ve been scrambling to maneuver despite him.

GOP Senators Take Sessions’ Side in Spat With Trump
Former colleagues provide cover to beleaguered attorney general

Confronted with the rare and awkward choice of siding with either a president of their party or a Cabinet member who’s a former colleague, Senate Republicans are sounding of single mind:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until five months ago a senior GOP senator from Alabama, has done nothing to merit the upbraiding he’s been taking from President Donald Trump.

Podcast: Why Republicans Haven’t (Yet) Said Nyet to Trump on Russia
The Big Story, Episode 63

CQ Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro and senior editor David Hawkings consider the Watergate scandal and what its rhythms reveal about why today’s GOP lawmakers are still taking a wait-and-see approach to the sprawling, sometimes confusing connections between the Russians and President Donald Trump.

Tiptoes on the Hill Back Into War Debate
A bipartisan push for Trump to seek fresh authority to combat terrorism

Sixteen years on, Congress seems to be getting genuinely close to forcing itself into a fresh debate on how to prescribe the use of military force against terrorism.

Writing a new war authorization will not happen before the end of the year, meaning those deliberations would be influenced by the dynamics of the midterm election campaign. But proposals to force the issue onto the agenda have the potential to blossom into sleeper hits on this summer’s remarkably blockbuster-deprived roster of consequential legislation.

Congressional Pay and Benefits at a Standstill, With a Cost
Self-denial makes political sense, but doesn’t aide Capitol culture or productivity

Call it quitters’ candor.

Members of Congress sometimes say the darnedest things on their way out the door, especially when taking their leave on their own terms and not because voters insisted on it. Jason Chaffetz recently became the latest such lawmaker.

Podcast: GOP’s Health Care Puzzle Not Solved by Protests, Parades
The Big Story, Episode 61

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likened his search for 50 senators willing to vote for the same repeal-and-replace legislation to solving a Rubik’s Cube, a task not helped by many GOP skeptics getting besieged back home this July 4 recess. Roll Call reporters Bridget Bowman and Niels Lesniewski see no reason to predict the health care impasse is about to be broken.

 

Podcast: McConnell’s Health Care Seesaw
The Big Story, Episode 60

The Senate majority leader hasn’t abandoned hope of finding 50 votes for the year’s top GOP priority. But postponement over the July Fourth break won’t make it easier to bridge the gap between those focused on Obamacare’s repeal and those worried about too stingy a replacement, Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski and David Hawkings explain.

Show Notes:

Six Who Could Succeed Pelosi — Someday
Ouster talk fades, but speculation continues about the next generation of House Democratic leaders

One week after House Democrats finished 0-for-4 in this special election season, their burst of frustration and pique vented toward Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appears to have fizzled.

The vexation is not going to fade away altogether, however, and neither will the lawmakers’ whispered talk in the cloakrooms or after their nightly fundraisers about which of them has a plausible shot at someday becoming Pelosi’s successor.